Bob (1992) s01e02 – Drawing a Blank

The episode opens with a really bad joke for Carlene Watkins, which Bob Newhart miraculously saves, but then by the end of the episode it’s Watkins who can do the heavy lifting. I’ve been iffy on Watkins just because she can’t hold her own against Newhart, but no one can so at least having her maneuver around him instead of trying to square off might be the secret to “Bob.”

Watkins is in the cold open, then goes into work at the comic company with Newhart on his first regular day of work. The episode seems constructed to ignore the pilot as much as possible, soft resetting Newhart’s relationship with new creative partner John Cygan and even giving Timothy Fall’s character a name. Andrew Bilgore still doesn’t get one.

After introducing Watkins and Cynthia Stevenson (as Watkins and Newhart’s daughter, which only works age-wise for Newhart) to the office staff—including a creepy but amusing interchange between Fall and Stevenson, which succeeds even though Fall’s bad and Stevenson’s only got like three lines and a loud outfit. But then it’s time for Cygan and Newhart to get to work on the first issue of the comic.

After the pilot established Cygan as a writer and artist, this one demotes him to just the writing. He’s even got a laptop he’s so hip. Newhart’s going to do the art. They’re excited to get to work. It does not go well.

The episode’s got a lot of easy, gently mean-spirited jokes (hey, it was the early nineties, mental health and homelessness are laugh riots), but the biggest moments hinge on Newhart monologuing while Cygan looks on in horror. Newhart’s really good at the monologuing, even if they’re not particularly well-written. It’s just the show leveraging Newhart being able to make anything work.

The only thing it can’t seem to do is move the episode along. But bring in Watkins at the finish and give her some scenes with irate staff member Ruth Kobart, who the show also relies on way too much to carry Bilgore in particular, and it’s all of a sudden just fine. Hopefully the show will figure out a way to plot better. Though you can do worse than Bob Newhart riffing for seventeen minutes and then Watkins coming in to wrap it up.

Though the very predictable finale manages to be both subtly ableist and subtly sexist in a way you usually don’t get anymore. Kind of like Cygan’s early nineties eyesore wardrobe.

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